Today I took a coach trip! I literally felt like I was on a school trip, although my classmates were somewhat older.
I was collected from the hotel at around 8am and ferried around Kowloon Island for at least an hour picking up various other people from other hotels. There didn’t seem to be any logic to the pick up order and we genuinely must have circled Kowloon Island quite a few times!
Once all parties were collected we were transferred to another bus. This bus was going to take us across to Central, from where we will catch the ferry to Lantau Island. After all the toing and froing, we finally arrived at the ferry port at around 9:30. It seemed an excessive journey to get to this point, but finally, the day trip was about to start.
The ferry port was quite unlike the rest of Hong Kong. It was dirty,basic and just generally felt sticky. There wasn’t any air conditioning and only a few fans that looked a good 30 or so years old wafting the hot air around. Luckily we only had a 15 minute wait here before our boat turned up.
There was no option to sit outside on the boat but there were plenty of window seats, which I grabbed straight away and settled in to the 40 minute journey. After the unnecessarily long journey getting to the ferry, I was quite desperate for the toilet and so decided to brave the on board toilets – bad idea. I opened the door and was met with the contents of the previous users bowels swishing around in the toilet bowl. I quickly retreated, trying not to vomit in my mouth.I would just have to hold it in!
The ferry journey was over pretty quickly and it was quite a smooth crossing, we boarded another coach and headed off to explore Lantau Island.
Cheung Sha Beach
Our first stop on Lantau Island was gorgeous long stretch of sandy beach, Cheung Sha. It stretches for some 3km and is one of Hong Kong’s longest beaches. We only spent about 20 minutes or so here, and I would have happily spent a bit longer. I was surprised that many of the other tourists on this day trip just used this stop as toilet stop and nothing more. I ended up having the beach to myself as no one else seemed to venture onto it.
I dipped my toes into the sea and ran along the soft sand. The running wasn’t intentional, it was just that the sand was incredibly hot and burnt the soles of my feet!
I reluctantly boarded the coach as the time was up and headed on to the next destination.
Tai O Fishing Village
Where the coaches park gives a false first impression of Tai O. It’s just a large car park with a few shops and on land houses.Not quite what I was expecting. However, once you venture into the village you are met with a much more traditional way of life. To get to the boats that cruise through the floating village, you have to walk through an active fish market. There is every sort of fish and sea creature imaginable for sale here, and they are all dried. Fresh fish and seafood was no where to be seen. I had never seen so much dried fish in my life! After exploring the fish market, I boarded a boat with a few others from our group and explored the floating village. There were shops, restaurants and even a bar, all built on stilts in the water. It was such a pretty scene and a unique way of life.
After cruising around the village, and back on dry land, I explored the backstreets of this village. The market continued on pretty much every street and there was a temple that we could explore. The streets were narrow and there was constant buzz and sense of community about the place.
The Big Buddha
This is what most people come to Lantau Island for. Perched high on a hill overlooking Lantau and across to Hong Kong, the Big Buddha is quite an impressive masterpiece. Not only is it huge but the detail when up close is just mesmerising.
You have two options when visiting the Big Buddha, you can climb the steep stairway to the Buddha or drive to the top. I will warn you though, the stairs are steep!! Whichever way you chose, the views from the top on a clear day are incredible. I think I did quite a few circles of the Buddha as on each lap you notice something different. It was also very slightly cooler at the top, which was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity so far.
There is a museum in the Buddha, with lots of relics and the chance to see the Buddha’s tooth fragments. The best bit though is that through the ticket to the museum you get to explore the Buddha statue even closer and have access to a slightly higher platform.
After exploring the Buddha statue, we then headed to Po Lin Monastery for lunch. This was included as part of the tour and I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a vegetarian meal and being a meat eater, I was a bit sceptical.
Well, how wrong I was. The meal was possibly one of the best Chinese meals I have ever had. The food was so fresh and full of flavour. A highlight was the fried tofu in lemon sauce. It was just delicious. And the sticky buns. Yum. I would highly recommend a stop here for lunch. It is definitely worth it!
Full to the brim with delicious food, we then had free time to explore Po Lin Monastery and the nearby tourist village on the way to the cable car. The monastery was beautifully decorated with such intricate details and vibrant colours. I would have liked to have taken more pictures to capture the detail but photos were restricted in some areas, so mental pictures will have to do.
Now, onto the village.Well, where do I start. It has a Starbucks. I am not even kidding. Next door to this beautiful monastery and stunning statue of the Buddha, there is a Starbucks. They are literally everywhere!! Ngong Ping village was not at all what I expected. It was like an outdoor shopping mall in the most bizarre of settings. Not sure I am a fan of this bit if I am honest.It seemed to contradict the beauty and serenity of the place. There are a few good souvenir shops should you wish to make any purchases and they do surprisingly have some good authentic gifts and souvenirs, despite the location. It is described as a culturally themed village but I am not sure what happened to the culture!
You pretty much have to navigate your way through Ngong Ping to get to/from the cable car, so unfortunately, this bizarre shopping village cannot be avoided but you can dash through it quite quickly.
On to the cable car though, now this is definitely worth it. Be prepared to queue though as it can get quite busy at certain times I think I arrived at the cable car around 2:30pm and there was already quite a queue, but some 10 minutes later, wow, the queue was huge! You can pay extra for a crystal cabin as they are called. These have a glass bottom and allow you to skip the queue and to be honest, if you arrive when there is a big queue, this is definitely worth doing!
I stuck it out and went for the basic cabin as the queue wasn’t too bad and I was trying to avoid spending too much additional money as Hong Kong had proved to be a bit more expensive than expected! I probably queued for around 15 minutes before being directed to the cabin. There were 6 of us in the cabin, and still plenty of room. I sat with my back to the direction of travel, which meant I had to keep turning around and craning my neck to see where we were headed but on the plus side, this meant any pictures I took did not include any unwanted people sitting in my way.
The cable car journey was probably one of my highlights of Hong Kong. It seemed to go on forever (I think it goes on for about 20 minutes), you are incredibly high up and go from dense vegetation and hills to skyscrapers and deep blue water all in one journey. The view is just incredible for the entirety of the journey.
A word of warning, as soon as you step out of your cabin at the bottom, you are accosted by numerous people trying to sell you a picture of you (and whoever you are travelling with) sitting in the cable car cabin. They literally will not let you past until you purchase. They start off with keyrings and a fancy frame, which if you say no to, quickly turns into just the picture at a reduced rate. No matter how many times you say no, they will have a new offer for you. In the end I bought the picture just for some peace!
Overall I had a great day exploring Lantau Island. I opted for a tour as I was short of time and wanted to make sure I covered everything. I did feel like there was a lot of time wasted at the start doing all the hotel pick ups which I feel meant we had less time to explore some of the earlier stops such as the beach and the fishing village,but I suppose this is a sacrifice that comes with group tours. I usually prefer private tours for that exact reason but due to budget in Hong Kong, I had to resort of a group trip.
Just as a note, I spent ages deciding which group trip to do and when it actually came down to it. it turns out that all the group trips I was looking at actually pool together anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about which you book, just look for the best price, as the tour ends up being exactly the same.